Inking in Adobe Illustrator | Melissa De Nobrega | Skillshare

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Inking in Adobe Illustrator

teacher avatar Melissa De Nobrega, Digital Painter

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Creating Custom Brushes


    • 3.

      The Practice Sheet


    • 4.

      Flower Inking Demo


    • 5.

      Colour Swatches


    • 6.

      Adding Flat Colour


    • 7.

      Finalizing with Shadows and Highlights


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

In this 30 minute class, you'll learn how to easily create dynamic vector artwork in Adobe Illustrator. You won't be using the pen tool or basic shapes. Instead, you'll get familiar with the brush and blob tools, perfect for creating artwork that's not rigid or lifeless!

I'm Melissa, a Freelance Designer and Illustrator. I sell my own stock illustrations and fonts on Creative Market. I'll walk you through my process for creating vector artworks from start to finish.

You’ll learn how to:

  • create custom brushes in Illustrator
  • use the brush and blob tools effectively
  • add colour, light and shadow to your line work

This class is for beginner or pro alike. Some basic understanding of Adobe Illustrator is highly recommended, although not completely necessary.

Meet Your Teacher

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Melissa De Nobrega

Digital Painter


Hey! I’m Melissa and I create classes to help artists get better at digital painting. I focus on teaching traditional techniques like inking and sketching, but using software like Procreate and Photoshop.

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1. Introduction: Hi. My name is Melissa [inaudible] , and I'm a freelance Graphic Designer and Illustrator. Aside from taking on the normal freelance gigs, I also create my own stock illustrations and fonts up for sale on Creative Market. I'm going to teach you the basics of inking in Adobe Illustrator and you'll also learn how to add flat color to your illustrations, as well as light and shadow. You'll also learn how to create your own custom brushes. For the entirety of the class, we'll be using Adobe Illustrator, as well as a drawing tablet. During the class, I'll provide a practice worksheet for you to follow along too, as well as a class project. For the project, we'll be creating botanicals. That's anything from full-on flowers to just the petals, leaves or even branches. It's all up to you. Our nature theme will give us the perfect foundation for us to really get started and practice the inking techniques and coloring techniques. If you're interested in learning a bit about how to create your own vector artwork in Adobe Illustrator, without using the Pen tool, shapes or live trace or maybe if you're just really excited to draw some botanicals, hit enroll and we'll get started in the next video. 2. Creating Custom Brushes: So let's make our first custom brush for inking in Illustrator. I've already opened the document. It's a landscape A4 sheet of paper in the RGB color space. On the right hand side, I've opened most of the panels I'll be utilizing in this class, including the color swatches, layers panel and pathfinder tool to name a few. So to start, let's bring up the brushes panel. If you don't already have it open, go to Window, which can be found in the menu, and select brushes. Now that that's open, let's just drag and drop it into our workspace. There's a drop-down menu within the brushes panel. We're going to click on that and select New Brush. So what happens now is a window will pop up asking us what brush we'd like to create. Let me just give you a quick overview of the different types of brushes. So a calligraphic brush, which is the one that we'll be using, creates brush strokes that look like they were made by a paint brush or a pen nib. You'll see what I mean in a moment. The next two which are grayed out are the scatter and art brushes. Both brushes are created using vector objects, which is why they're grayed out because we don't actually have any artwork selected. So a scatter brush will distribute the object you've selected along the path that you draw. Meanwhile, the art brush will stretch your object across the path that you've drawn. The bristle brush creates brush strokes that look like natural brushes with bristles, so they'll be more textured. Lastly, the pattern brush, this one will apply the patterns that you create to the paths that you draw. So anyway, as I said before, we'll be using the calligraphic brush. We can forget about the others for now. So once selected, I have a new dialogue box that opens up. One of the first things you'll see is the brush editor tool. So here you can change the shape and angle of your brush to mimic an actual nib. I like to keep my inking brushes with 100 percent roundness, which means it doesn't matter if I apply an angle. Now for the point size, the value you enter here will be the default point size of the brush. But what really matters is that in the drop-down menu we select pressure. This let's Illustrator know that we want the pressure of our pen two determine the point size of our brush at any given time. After we select pressure, the option to define variation becomes available. The point size that we enter here will determine the smallest size and larger size that our brush can be. So for a bit of simple math, if we create a variation of three points and seven points is our default size, that means that our smallest size will be four and our largest will be 10. You can seen the size difference happening in the display box beside the editor. Take a look at what happens when I dropped the variation down to only two points instead of three, everything readjusts. So now that's done, the last thing I like to do is name my brush according to its size, just for my own reference. So I'll call this one seven points and hit "Okay". Now in our brushes panel, we have our brand new brush. 3. The Practice Sheet: I'm going to go over the practice worksheet in this video. You can access this downloadable file under the class project tab. Once you have it open, just lock the practice sheet and draw on a new layer. What I want you to focus on is creating the same strokes as the grayed out ones underneath. Using our new custom brush or getting a feel for how much pressure we need to apply to create the lines we want. Something you'll notice right off the bat is that the lines I'm creating hear are not varying in thickness and thinness as much as the ones underneath. But that's okay, I can fix this. We'll just go back to our brush and double-click to open the editor again. Under Variation we'll bump it up all the way to seven points. Now looking at the sizes displayed in the white box, we can seen the difference is very drastic. When I hit Okay, Illustrator wants to known if we want to apply the changes to the strokes we already made. Let's go ahead and do that just for fun. Now we can really see the difference. Let's continue with the sheet. I have a few tips for you in the green boxes. One of my main tips is that when you're inking, I suggest you start from thin to thick. When you're using a traditional pen, this doesn't really matter so much but when you're using Illustrator, it can actually be tricky to create a really thick line and then try to thin it out. Illustrator sometimes registers this as you taking your pen off the tablet and it'll break your line. It's not impossible to go from thick to thin, but it's safer when you start lightly and increase your pressure so that your lines don't break. To create solid lines with no varying thickness, you could create a new pen or you can maintain the same pressure throughout your line, which can be a bit tricky. It just takes some practice. To create the ink well as we do with the dots, all you have to do with hold your pen in one spot and press down. Sometime is oddly enough, when you take your pen off the tablet, your dot will disappear, but that's all right. Either just do it again or move your pen a little bit so Illustrator will keep it as is. Download this practice sheet and give it a try yourself. Because the best way to learn is through a hands-on approach. Don't forget to post your results in your class project when you're done. 4. Flower Inking Demo: In this video, I'm going to demo for you my entire process from start to finish. This is how I would ink and eventually color in my drawings. The first thing I want to talk about is this sketch. What I have here is a pencil drawing and it's really nothing special. I used a leaded pencil, drew in my sketchbook and took a photo of it with my phone so I could upload it here. It has a fare amount of detail, but it's definitely missing some lines that I'll be putting into my final inking. Actually, most of the lines on these petals are actually for color reference. For example, the dots will be painted in color and not actually in black ink. When I was initially sketching this Lilly, I was already imagining how I wanted it to look in full color. Now, to get your flowers looking a bit more delicate and not so harsh, what you can do is avoid inking every little detail. The major lines that I put in are the dark lines around the edges. These lines are simply there to tell a viewer that one petal is separate from another. The next set of lines which don't appear on this drawing are the missing lines that I was talking about. These secondary and thinner lines that I draw are used to give form or three-dimensional shape to my image. These lighter lines will emphasize the bending, the crinkling and twisting of the petals in space. This demo will be superb, so you don't end up sitting hear forever watching me draw some lines. I'll explain a few points here and there about what to look out for or what you can do to make your flowers a bit more interesting. Here we go. To start, I'm just going to dim the image down so it's not so contrasty. I will start drawing on a new layer. You can notice up here, I've created several different brushes all at different point sizes, 7, 5, 3, and I believe 2, forgot to rename that. I will start by drawing all of the really thick lines. I won't really worry about little inside lines until much later. Now, when you're tracing it doesn't exactly have to be perfect. It's a bit more fun when you can just make it up as you go on. If you don't like something, just hit Command Z to undo it if you're on a Mac or Control Z if you're on a PC. Hold the space bar to bring up the little hand tool so you can move your drawing around. Something really great about using Illustrator to ink and maybe not Photoshop is that if I goof or mess up my line, I can always just adjust the path. I can just pick an anchor point and move it or use the handles to adjust it, or just delete it. The way that I'm varying the thickness and the thin, it's really just, I tend to make a line very thick where it connects to something like right in here. Usually on a down-stroke, I will make it dark as well and then when we're going up I tend to make that a bit thinner a bit lighter. Again, a lot of the times starting where I want things to be thin and then moving to thick. Something I also like to do is just zoom out every once in a while and turn the sketch off to see what it's looking like. Sometimes honestly it looks like a total mess. But you just have two keep going. Just trust yourself and trust the process. Like I said, we can always adjust particular lines as we go, or if you want, you can just leave everything to the end and just adjust it later. I think I might actually change the brush here to something a bit smaller because these little bits in here are actually quite small. When I'm using a thick brush it overwhelms them a bit, makes them a bit to thick and a bit difficult to distinguish. These stems can sometimes be a bit tricky because they're pretty much straight. With Illustrator unfortunately you can't rotate the canvas. It can put your arms in a bit of an awkward position. But that's where I like to just rough everything in and then go back in and adjust the paths later using my cursor. Like I said, it doesn't have to be perfect. Don't worry about it. Just allow yourself to experiment with the different lines, the thickness, the thinness and enjoy yourself. Move a bit and turn that off again. Looks a bit funny. Now, I'm going to start doing the interior lines. I like to use a really, well, a much thinner brush for this, you can notice the difference in the brushes that I was using, even in this one. I'll be using the thinnest brush that I have. Even with the thinnest brush actually I can make it even more fun. No matter what point size you make your brush here, the stroke size will always show up as one by default and you can adjust that to change the size. I'm going to lock this layer and do my secondary lines on another layer just in case I really mess up and want to delete them all. I'm going to put some of these ones in because they're quite important lines for a lily flower. Now what I'm putting in the secondary lines, like I said, I'm looking to really showcase where the petals bend and where they fold. I'm just trying to create that sense that it's a three-dimensional object. You can really just experiment here with the different lines and see what you like and what you don't like, what works and what doesn't. Sometimes for the secondary lines as well, I like to put in where there would bee darkness. In the center of the flower, there's going to be a lot of contrast there. Not as much light is going to hit the center part as it would this open parts of the petals. Sometimes I'll just add an even more lines in here just to get that point across or even down here where this piece of the petal is underneath this one. Zoom out often, squint as well if it helps. I tend to draw a bunch of lines for things like shadows or shading. But that's not the only way to do it. You can practices crosshatching if you want to, you can practice stippling. Crosshatching would be something more like that, or the stippling which is the dots to create shadow and a bit of a gradation. We can see with the secondary lines that we add in, it adds a lot more dimension, especially looking right in here, you can see the folds and the crinkles, a bit of the shadows. We'll just continue this way. I actually think that a lot of my secondary lines are a bit too thick. I hit Command A or Control A to highlight all of them. I'm just going to try lightening it up a bit, changing the stroke so that they get a little bit more thin, and already I like that a lot more. Remember that we'll also be adding shadows in with color, so don't feel like you need to draw every single line in to give the hint of shadow. I tried to put in just enough line so that the ink drawing can stand on its own without color and still give a good sense to the viewer of form and a little bit of shadow. That's pretty much it for now, that's just the ink drawn. 5. Colour Swatches: Before we start prepping our image for full color, I just want to go briefly over swatches first. In my Swatches panel, you'll notice that I actually have a bunch of new colors. To get these colors, all I did was take the Eyedropper tool in Photoshop and sample some actual colors from reference photos of lilies that I had. You don't have to take actual colors from photos. If you want, you could simply create some new color swatches yourself or you could go to a website like and select a pallet there that you like as a base to start. Alternatively, you could also open up the Swatches Library and select one of those to use, like the Flowers or Foliage Library. You'll notice that all my swatches hear has these little way arrows at the bottom and this signifies that they're actually global color swatches. Global swatches are amazing and I use them all the time in my own illustrations. They allow me to make live edits to a single color, and wherever that color shows up in my illustration, it will automatically be adjusted. It's a really useful tool. 6. Adding Flat Colour: Now we can actually start prepping our illustration for a color. The first thing we're going to do is hit "Command A" to highlight everything, and we're going to create a new layer, command C or control C to copy it. We'll just hide everything and then command or control V to paste it all onto the new layer. Now with everything selected, we're going to go to "Object", "Expand Appearance", and what that does is turn all of the paths that we had into shapes. We're going to go down hear to our pathfinder tool and we're going to use unite. Now all those individual shapes are turned into one large shape. Again, if you don't have the pathfinder panel open, you can found it under "Window". Now I'm just going to create another new layer. I'm going to place that below this one. This is the one that we're going to fill with our base color. I want the majority of the flower to be pink. Now I'll just highlight both of these. Down here, we have the merge tool. We'll ungroup it, and you'll notice that what that does is it cuts out our line work from this square. I can delete all of that and suddenly I have a pink flower. I can select my line work. To get all of my line work, what I'm going to do is go up to "Select", "Same", "Fill Color", and that'll pick out all of the black and I'm just going to move up, back down so that they're separated. There we go. You can seen how it was cut out. This is my base color. We may as well name our layers so that we don't get ourselves confused. We're going to lock our ink layer, and we're going to start highlighting from the base the pieces that we want to be other colors. The stems are going to be green, so I don't have to worry about those. I'll just turn all of them green and make my life easy. Sometimes when I'm trying to change the colors of particular pieces, they can be a little bit difficult to grab because there are so many little pieces, so what I like to do is highlight the objects that I know I don't want to change the color of. I'll highlight the pink petal, for example, and hit "Command 2" or "Control 2" which locks those objects, which means that I can't select them anymore. 7. Finalizing with Shadows and Highlights: Now we can actually start adding details to our flour. To do this, we're going to use the blob brush tool. The blob brush tool can be found under the same panel is the paintbrush tool where you can use the keyboard shortcut "Shift B to access it. The difference between the blob brush tool and the paintbrush tool is that the blob tool will create shapes where the paintbrush tool will create paths. We skips an extra step for us where if we were painting our details with the paintbrush tool, we would have to expand our shape after or expand our path after. I've created another layer on top of my base layer to start painting in the colors. When you're painting with the blob tool, anytime you paint over a line that you've already made, it will automatically merge those shapes together to create one larger shape. hear I can click on the shape that I've created and you'll notice that it's all one giant shape and not a bunch of individual little strokes. Sometimes I stole reference back to my original drawing just to make sure that I'm on track. All I'm doing right now is just adding more and more details to the flower. Later on, I'll be adding sum shadows. When I'm adding in shadows, I like to use a darker version of the color that I'm painting on top of. For the shadows on the pedals, I'll use a darker pink. For the shadows on the stems, I'll use a darker green. I don't like to use grays or blacks because it can be harsh. Sometimes it'll dull out your image. Here instead of adding more shadows, I've decided to do the opposite and add a bit of highlights instead. The brown is already pretty dark and I don't really want to go any darker. Instead I'm going to add in little pops of color. The last thing I'm going to do is actually change the color of the ink. As I said before, grays and blacks can be harsh. I'm going to change it to a navy blue. That's it. You have a finished full-color illustration of a beautiful flower. Congrats. 8. Final Thoughts: So that's it. You've done it. You've learned how to create your own custom brush, how to ink in Adobe Illustrator, and how to fully color your vector artwork. So I really hope that you've learned something valuable in this class and don't forget to practice, post your project in the class projects below so you can get feedback and recognition for all of your hard work. I can't wait to seen what you come up with.